Congratulations to FC Basel who win the Performance of the week award, beating Tottenham Hotspur on penalties to progress to the semi-finals of the Europa League, where they will face another English team, Chelsea. FC Basel who have a rich European history have proved the media wrong for branding them as ‘underdogs’ and have also provided a massive blow to Spurs’ campaign.
The first leg of the tie was another tight affair, with the Swiss side taking an early 2 goal lead. Their performance was a brilliant one but they could not hold on, eventually drawing 2-2 after conceding a scrappy goal and a deflected goal. They were very unlucky. In the second leg in Basel, Spurs treated Basel with more respect, having seen Basel’s qualities in the first leg.
The scoring was opened by Clint Dempsey, after an appalling mistake by Aleksander Dragović. Jan Vertonghen played a pass through the middle, trying to find Dempsey in behind, but it was read by Dragović. However, Dragović slipped at the crucial moment and the ball went off him into Dempsey’s path. Dempsey rounded the goalkeeper Yann Sommer and slotted home, a terrible start for Basel. The RotBlau have a lot of fight in them though, and they replied quickly, making the score 3-3 on aggregate with Basel currently going through on away goals. It was another mistake which led to the goal, Moussa Dembélé’s pass being intercepted started the move. Marco Streller had two players either side of him in a ‘four on two’ moment. The Swiss international quickly played a first time ball to Mohammed Salah on the right hand side. Salah took a lovely, heavy first touch, getting the ball out of his feet and exploiting the space. He toe-poked home left footed past Friedal in the 27th minute.
FCB had enjoyed success from corners in the first leg and success was to come again. In the 49th minute they forced a corner and scored through Dragović, atoning for his earlier error. Stocker curled the ball with pace into the near post area and it was met by the running Schär. Friedel could only parry the ball out to Dragović who smashed home, sending the Swiss fans wild. It was a poor goal for Spurs to concede, with poor marking at the corner and Friedel making a bad save. The Lilywhites refused to be beaten though, and scored late in the 82nd minute through Clint Dempsey after more atrocious defending from the Swiss. A desperate long ball from Tom Huddlestone should have been dealt with by Basel but they allowed it to bounce through to Clint Dempsey on the right of the penalty area, who stabbed it left footed in to the net. Sommer got a hand to it but somehow could not keep the ball out.
Things turned bad for Tottenham though when they had Jan Vertonghen sent off for fouling Streller when he was last man. It was more rubbish defending as the Belgium misjudged the pass to Streller and tripped him, getting nowhere near the ball. The match finished level at 2-2, 4-4 on aggregate and went to extra-time. El Nenny hit the post in the 98th minute, Diaz put one just wide, but Tottenham somehow clung on for penalties, despite being a man down. They sat back and absorbed the Basel onslaughts. Tottenham though had lost 6 of their last 6 penalty shoot-outs. Make that seven. FC Basel were brilliant at them. Schär scored the first, low into the bottom right corner with Friedal guessing the right way. Tom Huddlestone had his penalty to the left saved after a brilliant dive from Sommer. Marco Streller then coolly sent Friedal the wrong way, rolling his to the left. Gylfi Sigurðsson then scored an important penalty, blasting his straight down the middle. Frei with a long run up hit his high into the top right, sending Friedal the wrong way again. Adebayor ballooned hos over, aiming for the top right. Marcelo Diaz then had the chance to win it for Basel and send them through to the semi-finals. He stepped up, looking slightly nervy but hit his straight down the middle. He was immediately mobbed by teammates and staff of FC Basel and the atmosphere reached fever pitch.
The performance sees Basel, Switzerland’s top club, go to the semi-finals of the Europa Leauge where they will face Chelsea. They now have a great chance of winning a European competition. They proved their doubters wrong, the people who said that Basel was an easy draw. The result also puts pressure on André Villas-Boas, a man wo values this competition very highly after winning it with Porto. It also means that Spurs’ confidence will have taken a knock at a crucial stage of the season. They may be overtaken by Arsenal again for the race for fourth; it is starting to look more and more likely.
Sorry that this POTW is late, I will try and get one out every Friday.